Somehow, when we calculated how many hours we would be traveling, we calculated too low. We thought it was a day-and-a-half. Well, from the moment we all gathered for the photo in the Spokane International Airport to the time we got off the plane in Kigali, Rwanda, it was 49 hours!! I have had several naps over the last two days, but not nearly enough sleep. Even now as I type this blog, I feel extremely dizzy and rummy.
London was wonderful. I hope I can get back there some day. Le and I agreed that it seemed as though the UK invented good manners. People were incredibly nice. The photos I have to show here are the tobacco labeling. I wish the dangers of tobacco use were as obviously pointed out on commercial tobacco products in the USA.
The airport in Nairobi, Kenya was . . . hmm . . . not sure how to describe it. Long, narrow and nothing but duty-free shops. We all agreed that if there are any last minute Africa souvenirs we want to get, we can find them in Kenyatta International Airport.
My wife took a picture of me with my new friend Lorian, who told me he likes the USA culture of self-assurance and national pride, but he admits that the USA ocassionally steps over the line into arrogance and micro-management of the world.
We arrived at the hotel, whose entrance road was being repaired as we arrived. It required us to unload our luggage from streetside and cart it through the clay mud to the hotel. Everyone pitched in and helped. It was actually quite a specticle . . . We had piled 20-30 pieces of luggage and about 10 people into this van and drove to the hotel. When we off-loaded, it looked like an old style human chain, passing the luggage out of the vehicle and handing it to the next person and the next, etc. The hotel is easy to miss: it sits behind the trees in this photo.
I took a photo of the luggage, noting that it was only about half of all the luggage our group brought.
Our concierge, Constantine, was extremely helpful. How sweet it was that he gave Le and I a great room because, as he said, "you, sir, are the old man." In Rwanda, that would be considered a high compliment. My first faux pas was that I was taken aback by this, and further, asked for a room change. Wish I could take that one back. So, I took his picture and printed a photo for him.
The lesson I am relearning (goodness, how often do I have to relearn the same lessons over and over again?) is to suspend all judgments of others. There are so many cultural dynamics I could talk about and so many mistakes our group has already made. Mostly, we have assumed so many things based on books or movies or those of us who have been to Africa. Let’s see . . . Kenya Airways airline was probably the single best airline I have ever travelled with. Phenomenal service. Newer planes. Personal entertainment centers for every person (DVD, music, information center, etc.). Decent food – NOT just peanuts. Myth One: African service or technology or travel is behind the times. … We are going to a wedding ceremony (a ceremonial prenuptial, to be more correct) and I was told it would include "buying the bride" from her family. While talking with Lorian, he mentioned how President Kagame (president of Rwanda) has insisted on the equalization of men and women. One of our guests, a female ex-pat, told me that men do not own women. Myth Two: Rwandan women have absolutely no self-efficacy. … I was amazed by the ride from the airport. The highway was in extremely good condition. Now, if Rwanda, with its infrastructure difficulties, can make really nice roads, can’t Spokane have at least one arterial without potholes? Myth three: Rwanda’s road system is primarily made of dirt roads. I could go on and on.
We went to a welcome dinner. Probably no surprise to those of you who know me, I was the last one out of there. I had to walk back to the hotel all alone in the pitch black. The streets were abuzz with people and cars, as if we were in New York City. I was perfectly safe. No worries, no need to fear.
We climbed into bed – at last. Here is Le, with the bed draped by mosquito nets. One of our team members thought it was some strange canopy meant to create romantic atmosphere.
We will be up tomorrow bright and early – ugh!! Though waking sounds like more than I want to handle right now, I am clearly in my element here. I love it!! Le and I both wept as we touched down on African soil. Our dream is coming true.
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